College Students and Substance Abuse: A Culture of Drinking and Drug Use

College students: a culture of drinking and drug useCollege students have long been the center of drinking advertisements and commercials, which doesn’t happen by chance. For many years now, colleges have upheld a “drinking culture” that has made it nearly expected for young adults to binge drink as an act on their “freedom” and independence. While it all seems like fun and games, this culture of drinking has sparked a lot of issues in terms of substance abuse and the development of alcoholism later (and even earlier) on. In an interview on WBUR Radio where students talk about college drinking culture, Madeleine D’Angelo, a 21-year-old senior at Boston College in Maryland, stated,

“… [Blacking out is] part of our language. It’s very common to have someone say, ‘Oh, I can’t even remember what happened last night, I blacked out.’”

Sure, drinking is the norm for college students – but what are the statistics on this?

The Dangers of College Drinking Culture: Facts and Statistics

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that about 1,825 college students between the ages of 18-24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries, including vehicle accidents. About 696,000 students are assaulted each year by another student who has been drinking and 97,000 students report alcohol-related sexual assault. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence sought to assess just how prevalent the connection between college drinking culture and issues such as sexual assault was related – of 704 survey responses from males and females in college, researchers discovered that victimization was associated with heavier drinking, along with other factors.

About 20% of college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD), yet a very small percentage of these actually seek help for it. If it’s seen as “normal” to drink heavily while in college, it makes sense that many college students aren’t seeing anything wrong with it; what they don’t realize, however, is that peer pressure and experimentation can lead to some dangerous consequences.

Social Work Today previously highlighted the tragic story of a young woman in college who was involved in a tragic accident related to drinking and driving. Emergency room visits are only a lucky outcome for many, compared to the large number of college students who die each year from alcohol-related incidents. Some other direct consequences of alcohol abuse for college students include:

  • Poor academic performance through skipping class and difficulty concentrating
  • Dropouts
  • Injuries
  • Criminal activities
  • Health issues such as liver damage, high blood pressure, inflammation of the pancreas and more

With all of these harmful effects that clearly aren’t taken as seriously as they should be in college settings, what can be done to help our young adults seek help?

Interventions for College Students

NIH Medline Plus suggests that parents talk to their college children early on in the semester that they attend school, so they can successfully adapt to campus life. Parents can also inquire about campus policies regarding alcohol, in addition to following up with their children frequently to ensure their safety.

Ultimately, it’s about changing the drinking culture in colleges by informing students of the real-life consequences that can result from binge drinking. The more support we can provide, the more likely they are to monitor their use or at least consider seeking help if it’s needed.

Many young adults in college fail to achieve major milestones once addiction has entered their lives, which makes recovery that much more important. 12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have been evidenced to help many people build their sense of spirituality – a major component that many college students are beginning to face – along with tools and strategies for combating negative thought patterns, triggers, cravings and more. Along with peer-led support groups, such as 12-Step programs, young adults can find the following to be very beneficial for their recovery:

  • Gender specific treatment to meet their needs
  • Experienced healthcare teams who are familiar with addiction and recovery
  • Engagement in a caring yet challenging community as to better equip them with developing a strong recovery identity
  • Close communication with their educational institution, so they can continue reaching towards their academic goals while in recovery
  • Comprehensive education on the disease of addiction and how it affects the mind, body and spirit
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Family therapy, to help rebalance the family system and promote peace at home

Don’t Wait – Seek Help Now

If you’re a college student who may be noticing signs of alcoholism or a related disorder, speak with someone from Cumberland Heights today. The sooner you seek help, the greater the possibility of reversing or minimizing some of the damages that alcohol may have caused to your body. You have an entire life ahead of you, with so many roads and possibilities to take. Make the choice to place your happiness and health as a top priority today – you won’t regret it.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.